The Original Sin City
For those of you who haven’t been to Amsterdam you won’t know what I’m talking about. For those of you who have, I’d be surprised if you weren’t also charmed by the city in a way you probably weren’t expecting. Amsterdam has a character unlike any I’ve ever experienced. For a place where you can buy drugs, women, absinthe and Feebo as easily as a cup of coffee, often easier, it’s amazing the place hasn’t fallen apart. It all just works.
You will see police walking through the streets of the Red Light District talking shop with the prostitutes while tourists and locals squeeze through the narrow streets, joints dangling from their mouths. Business as usual in one of the craziest, coolest cities I’ve ever been.
The people you’ll encounter will be from every corner of the globe. Some live there, some are just passing through. Many are young and American, as you’d expect, on a drug and alcohol fuelled rampage before starting college. But, everyone gets along. Locals included. I’ve been to other cities in Europe, where tourists and locals don’t mix well, or get along at all. In Bruges, the town map I was given had a list of things to do so you didn’t piss off the locals. But, not Amsterdam. You might as well be a local yourself…
On my first day, only hours out of Schipol, I was riding with both expats and locals on a borrowed bike to enjoy the afternoon in Vondelpark. It was a national holiday, so this is what you do, they told me. So, even though it had been years since I’d ridden a bike, I agreed and off we went. We picked up the necessities and spent the rest of the afternoon, well, doing what you do on a holiday in a park when visiting Amsterdam.
After the first day, I did get some sightseeing in, believe it or not. It’s a place where you can party as hard as you want until the earliest hours of the morning, or just as easily spend your days visiting attractions or relaxing in the park. It’s all about balance.
Some of the highlights, for me, included the Heineken Brewery (well worth the entrance fee, but I love breweries – either way, it includes two pints), The Van Gogh Museum (and I don’t even particularly like art), The Anne Frank House, Canal Tour and the food. If you’ve never experienced Amsterdam French Fries, you don’t know what you’re missing. Golden, crispy fries with a glob of saucy mayo. A horribly guilty pleasure and shouldn’t be consumed more than once or twice per lifetime. Perfection. Feebo is also worth a try! A Euro or two will get you delicious, little HOT snacks – from a vending machine. Amazing.
Overall, the folks I encountered in Amsterdam had to be some of the friendliest I’ve ever met. It’s a city I hope to return to again and again – at any age. There are things for the art lover, the coffee shop enthusiast, the foodie and the history buff. Museums, tours, canals and food from all over the world. While Amsterdam isn’t the most naturally beautiful city I’ve been, it is certainly picturesque. Even though you sometimes feel as if it’s a bit dirty, it doesn’t bother you. If you haven’t been yet, go. If you have, go again.